Friday, May 27, 2011

Home is where the schedule has to be: slowly getting workable daily schedule together for cancer/back surgery rehab out of our house

We're nine days into Extreme Steve Makeover: Home Edition and I feel like I'm starting to get into a routine.
The plan that we had come together with at GF Strong was for me to stretch and strengthen in the morning, and then go to the pool and maybe take a walk in the afternoon. Today was the first day we managed to pull it off.
In my defence, we had been told by all sorts of people to take it easy the first few days after discharge, Canada Games Pool down the street was booked with a swim meet last weekend and we did have other one-off events cut into things this week. For instance, I needed to go for a driver's rehab session at GF on Thursday, and I was dead-set on hitting the mall on Wednesday to buy Carol-Ann a ring, a memento for us making it through 20 sessions of radiation for a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour, eight back surgeries and six months in VGH/GF.
With coaching from friends Bif Naked and Susie Culp, I picked out a little Topaz number. (Anybody who thinks that I'm sucking up to my wife by buying her a ring and then talking about it're right.) And as much as it was about making Carol-Ann happy, it was a learning experience: assorted good folks at GF suggested I purchase a wheelchair for longer trips, "like to a mall," and sure enough, I was gutted by the end of the day. (The wheelchair we bought remains a storage cabinet for the time being, as I'm sticking with Walks, my walker.)
Originally, we were going to search through all the stores at Oakridge. Instead, we made it to a pair, and, thanks goodness, there was something very Carol-Ann at that final one.
I didn't have much left by the end of Thursday, either, but that was more mentally draining. The driver's rehab was largely computer generated, looking to test my reaction time with my hands and my feet. We also went over rules of the road and did a few basic strength tests.
The final bill? A tidy $275. (Could have gotten a nice pair of earrings to go with the ring for that.) Next up, I have to report to the Motor Vehicle Branch my spine injury, which in turn makes my current license invalid. I need my GP, Dr. Jennifer Rogerson, to fill out a form explaining my limitations and send it to MVB and then I take a road test set up by GF.
The final bill for that GF test? I think it's $325. (Could have gotten a nice pendant to go with the ring for that.) I pass, I get a license. I fail -- and we've been told that 50 per cent of people with my type of injury do -- and it's lessons ($161 per) and another road test (another $325, I think).
I did pick up a "Learn To Driver Smart -- Your Guide to Driving Safely," from GF, so I'll be studying that in the days leading up to my test.
We'll have to make it part of my routine.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dealing with a "lower body injury" while dealing with cancer/back surgery rehabilitation

I'm rehabbing hurt.
Before I left GF Strong for home late last week, the doctors and physios assessed that I had tendinitis in my knees.
How cool is that? It almost sounds athletic.
The good folks at GF said that the pain was coming from both fatigue from rehab and from poor walking form, due to me landing all too often on locked knees. They tied that to fear of my legs buckling, and, I hate to admit it, but that's more than fair.
Ice and rest is the treatment and, after my discharge Thursday night, I tried to take it easy for a few days. We've hired a physio, Paula, who will come to the house to bust my behind, but she suggested that I spend a week or so getting adjusted to being home before I get back to a regular workout routine.
Much of my first few days at home was spent hanging out with Charlie, the 18-year-old daughter of Carol-Ann's brother Chuck. Charlie, who lives in North Carolina, is one of my favourite people on the planet. She's scrappy and fun. And she's brave as can be -- there was all sorts of family stuff going on right when Carol-Ann and I were getting married, and Charlie, then 15, came up here all on her own for the ceremony. That was a big, big deal for Carol-Ann, and I'll be forever indebted to Charlie for that. (Read: I'll bail her out of whatever trouble she might get in and EVENTUALLY let her parents know about it.)
The timing of my discharge couldn't have been more perfect because of her arrival.
Charlie left for home today and Carol-Ann went back to work, meaning that I got to spend my first full day at home. I had hoped to go to Canada Games Pool to do some laps, but chickened out. I did get in some stretches and strengthening exercises, and me and my new best friend Walks (pictured above...a little something we purchased prior to departing GF) took a walk around the block.
It's scary. Stretching and strengthening at GF is generally done on raised mats; I did it on the floor at home today, and we had a couple of limited sessions at GF about getting up off the floor.
But I want to be known as a battler, and I want to get better and the only way I can do that is going outside my comfort zone.
For what it's worth, my knees are feeling better. I shouldn't have to ice them too much tonight.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

There's no place like home: Cancer, back surgery rehab moves to our house come May 20

I'm coming home. For good. Finally.
The fine folks here at GF Strong Rehab have all agreed that I can vamoose (good word) on Friday, May 20. I have been home on weekends the past month or so, but I haven't lived at there full time since late November. I haven't been on the main floor or the upstairs portion of our three-storey house since early October; new hand rails being put in should change that in the coming couple of weeks.
I'm far from back to "normal." (Quotes very much intentional.) I'm still needing a walker to get around. I'm still worn out.
They've worked my butt off here. I've never worked so hard in my life. I've tried things physically (there's a long, fairly steep hill out back that I've rode four times and counting in a wheelchair with much help from rehab assistant Derek) that I wouldn't have tried when I was 20.
Granted, that's an indictment of my past, but can't we all just let me revel a little bit, eh? (Hello...I have CANCER.)
The plan is that I won't immediately go back to work at the Province, but instead continue rehabbing every day for the first few weeks at least. We're going to hire a physiotherapist one or two days a week to make sure that I'm staying on track with form and function.
Erin, my occupational therapist here, and I have worked out a daily schedule that involves an hour of stationary bike riding, stretching and strengthening in the morning, cabbing to Canada Games pool for an hour water walking in the afternoon and an hour walk in the afternoon to pick up fresh veggies for dinner. (Yes, Erin has me on veggies. Next up, she'll create world peace. Then, she'll make Vancouver sports fans appreciate Roberto Luongo.)
I look at the schedule and wonder if it's not too ambitious, especially with daily chores around the house thrown in. But I must get better. There is no other option.
Like I've said before, I could be smarter and fitter on May 30, 2011 than I was on May 30, 2010, and that's after a bout with Solitary Plasmacytoma and eight surgeries on my back, including two separate ones to put in rods and screws to stabalize my spine.
As far as coming home, I'm most excited about spending more time with Carol-Ann and taking some of the stress of house up-keep off her shoulders. She's been busting her ass between work at Earl's corporate office (shameless plug for my wife's employer, who continues to be marvelous to us) and being at GF Strong every day and worrying about the house; she's looked so tired and worn out some days, and I have to admit that I've felt unbearably guilty at times. (I know that Carol-Ann's a sharp cookie and is making decisions that she wants to make...I'm just saying that I've felt guilty. Get off me...I have CANCER.)
Another plus for Carol-Ann and for me, as much as I hate to admit it, is that the family cat, Figaro, gets to come home after her extended stay with Carol-Ann's parents, Ron and Verna. I wasn't a cat person before Carol-Ann plopped Figaro into my life, and I contend that I'm a Figaro person more than a cat person right now. As I've pointed out before, Figaro and I have much in common; we like to lay on the couch walking TV, we don't like people touching our bellies and we both hang on every word Carol-Ann says.
(Full disclosure: there's been no sign cancer being present in my recent blood tests, and my radiation-oncologist, Dr. Jim Morris, says that he doesn't need to see me for the next three months. So, some of my "friends," like Carla McAloney, dispute whether I can play the CANCER card anymore. Frankly, I think that's just mean.)
I'm not sure what the next few days here at GF has in store for me. But I definitely want to get a little more momentum going towards my impending discharge.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New railings mean a chance to get back to good old days of time in the kitchen, master bedroom

This blog sat idle for several weeks. Now, it's running a million miles per hour.
I got home earlier tonight for my final weekend pass from GF Strong, and found that the workers Carol-Ann had hired had completed the railings on our stairs leading from the basement to the main floor.
The short version? Tonight, I made it to the main floor, which features the kitchen and master bedroom, for the first time since Oct. 19. That was the day we were admitted to VGH with what turned out to be a Solitary Plasmacytoma tumour in my T-2 vertebrae.
We did get to come home for much of November, but my walking was so wonky that I was confined downstairs. We went under the same premise during my early weekend passes from GF.
The railings on the stairs didn't go all the way to the top before, and there was a worry that I wouldn't make it all the way up.
Needless to say, it was simply spectacular when I did exactly that today. I cried my eyes out, wandering from room to room.
It was a good kind of cry this time, though.

Wheel and Deliver: Delivery Hill at GF Strong brings up and downs and ups again in rehab

This is Delivery Hill, at GF Strong. They make some of us wheelchair up and down it during therapy. The picture doesn't do it enough injustice, so to speak.

Want to battle back from cancer and multiple back surgeries? There's an Apps for that

Hopefully Amy Apps doesn't hate me for this, but this note I got from her a few weeks back is the latest thing to inspire me.
Amy is studying to be a physio. I saw her a few weeks back at GF Strong, when she was visiting for a conference or something. I first met her when she was playing with the Vancouver Whitecaps; by coincidence, I ended up moving into her building in Steveston soon after that, and we'd bump into one another in the hallways and parkade.
I wrote a story on her and her hockey-playing sister, Gillian, during Vancouver 2010.
When I talk about how lucky I am, it's because of things like this. (Sorry about the cliched headline, BTW.)

Hey Steve,

It was really good to see you too :) I really can't believe I bumped into you the way I did. It worked out perfectly. I want you to know how much I admire your fight with everything you have been through. It sounds like you have been able to keep humour and humility through an extremely trying time (understatement eh!) Your appreciation and love for the deeply important things in your life is an inspiration (no I'm not stalking :) and yes I read your blogs). I hope to see you again soon, and just so you look really good. You do not look like a man who has been to hell and back. Keep fighting.

Take care,